It’s like James Bond with Legos! Lego City Undercover is the first new Nintendo series in a long time. And since it’s an open-world game, you can go where you want in a city inspired by San Francisco (and later Miami and Manhattan).
|LEGO CITY UNDERCOVER
(Nintendo for Wii U)
Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older
Replay Value: 9.5
Overall Score: 9.0
Pros: Open world for kids; scanner mode feels real; sometimes really funny.
Cons: Terribly long load times; needs better writing; sometimes really unfunny.
Lego City as toys started in 2005, but the series really began with Lego Land back when your dad was a kid. And the reason it’s been around so long is that it is really imaginative (like 2012’s The Mine set of toys).
This game gives you so many locations (17!), so many missions and so many different kinds of vehicles, it’s well worth the price of admission. Plus, cool cop Chase McCain can stop any kind of vehicle — cars, trucks, buses, garbage trucks — and drive it to the next mission.
There are some new twists to the Lego game formula, including a Super Build mode, in which you construct everything from cars to giant ferries. You make the first Super Build after losing your vehicle. Press the A button and — bam — a huge helicopter delivers your new police car.
Also, when you, say, leap between skyscrapers, it’s an awesome feeling. The game goes into slow motion as you fly through the air with the greatest of ease. You really will feel like you can fly.
Because the game takes place in an open world, there’s a lot to explore. Via the ferry I made with Super Build, I traveled to a prison on Albatross Island, the game’s version of Alcatraz. There’s a sandy beach below the jail, and instead of completing my mission right away, I walked around on the beach. I checked out the vista while listening to the seagulls and put together three sandcastles along the way.
It’s this close attention to detail that makes Lego City Undercover a surprisingly fulfilling experience. And the city seems really vast. From the quiet roads in the woods to the serious downtown traffic, you’ll marvel at the immense nature of a giant LEGO city.
BADDIES, VEHICLES AND COSTUMES
Throughout the course of the game, you’ll take out baddies, one by one. Depending on the angle you take, you can take them down in different ways. That’s great because you’re not seeing the same animation over and over again. If they don’t hit you first, you can get multiple points for each baddie you hit after the first one.
Also, it’s impressive that the various vehicles you ride in have different feels. It’s harder to speed up in a big truck than it is in, say, a Smart car.
As you move through the missions, you’ll get various costumes that help you move into new areas. For instance, when you’re trying to get into Rex’s lair in the prison, you’ll put on your prisoner costume to pry open vents and to crack safes.
GAMEPAD, HUMOR AND REPLAY VALUE
The GamePad becomes a scanner to find things like bricks you need for a Super Build. Aim the GamePad at the TV, and in yellow, you’ll see possible bricks on the touch screen. You have to press the A button to see if it’s really a brick. This scanner mode is a ton of fun.
The characters can be really humorous, even the minor ones. Early on, you might recognize a certain cop from the movies. When you think about it, it’s a funny, blocky version of Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood!
There are lots of funny breaks throughout. Look in the backgrounds of the movie scenes to see what’s going on, like a squirrel fishing or a prisoner being lifted high in the air with balloons. You’ll take time to dance to the music on a jukebox and, believe me, Chase has some serious moves.
And, boy, the replay value is high. There are nearly 300 characters and outfits and more than 100 vehicles to unlock. And the surprises! At one point, when you cast your line in the water, you come up with a Mario fish.
SOME GLITCHES, BUT STILL A MUST-HAVE
But there are a couple of annoying things you have to deal with when you boot up the game.
First, there are a lot of long load times. These usually appear when the game starts, and Nintendo loads a non-playable story scene. I mention it because these bumps in the game flow are really long. They take you out of what otherwise is a delightful game.
And these scenes aren’t always that funny, either (although sometimes they are). They should have spent more time on making the dialog simple and tight.
When you go back to gameplay, you naturally want to move Chase McCain, the James Bond-like hero who ultimately tracks down the evil Rex Fury, the big boss of the game. But now and then, there’s a second or two of lag time before you can move at all. Are you frozen because the Wii U isn’t powerful enough to handle a big game, or is it due to the game design?
And yet, you deal with it. Overall, you’ll have so much fun — and downright glee — with the various locales, puzzles, characters and costumes, you can pretty much forgive the glitches. Undercover really is the first must-have Nintendo game of the year.